- Published on Thursday, 28 February 2013
- Written by Jane Carnall
The idea that normal human sexual orientation can be "cured" is as dangerous and as potentially lethal as the idea that normal human skin colour can be "cured". There is nothing to cure because there is nothing wrong.
The Core Issues Trust wants to run ads on London buses. They claim to be a "non-profit Christian ministry" which kindly provides "support" to
men and women with homosexual issues who voluntarily seek change in sexual preference and expression
They claim to "respect the rights of individuals who identify as 'gay' who do not seek change" but they do not support equal marriage: nor is there any evidence that they support civil partnership, employment rights, anti-discrimination rights.
Core Issues Trust is not recognised as a charity by the Charity Commission: it is based in Northern Ireland, and it appears to have only one significant employee, Mike Davidson.
On a flyer available on their website, advertising "An experiential therapeutic support group using action methods and psychodrama for personal development and growth in a Christian ethos" the Core Issues Trust claims:
“In my journey out of homosexuality, I have found psychotherapy groups a helpful support” says Mike Davidson of Core Issues Trust. “An experiential support group aims to assist members to explore a range of personal issues which impact on mood, behaviour, sexuality, and happiness, encouraging us to live healthier and holier lives”.
In the safety and containment of a small group of people committed to supporting one another, use is made of classical psychodrama techniques, at a pace comfortable to individual participants. Confidentiality is observed and required of all group participants who acknowledge their need of repentance and regeneration under the Lordship of Christ in our journey towards spiritual health.
Their home page puts the core of this uncomfortable mixture of religion and psychotherapy much more bluntly:
homosexual genital expression is not God’s will for His people.
In court today, Paul Diamond, appearing for Core Issues Trust, claimed that the right to advertise their services to "cure" gay people was
"a very important free speech case on whether a totally temperate, restrained advertisement can be put on the sides of London buses."
Core Issues Trust claims affiliations with two organisations: NARTH, the discredited US ex-gay organisation [in September 2012, NARTH lost its tax-exempt status in the US], via its international Listserve group called "the International Federation for Therapeutic Choice" (an online group that just costs $65 per year to join) and The Association of Christian Counsellors (ACC), which asserts in a formal statement on "same-sex attractions" in December 2012:
Any client seeking counselling has the right to indicate their goals and aspirations within counselling and to be respected for that choice. If a client seeks to explore change to their lifestyle or behaviour then using the core conditions the counsellor needs to respect that desire and work with them to their benefit. For the counsellor to reject this out of hand implies that they are seeking to impose their own agenda on the client and this is unethical.
While carefully phrased to avoid open conflict with the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy guidelines issued to all members in September 2012, ACC would appear to be offering support to its members who are also members of BACP that they can continue to offer reparative therapy to "cure" gay clients, even though BACP has said quite clearly that it
opposes any psychological treatment such as 'reparative' or 'conversion' therapy which is based upon the assumption that homosexuality is a mental disorder, or based on the premise that the client/patient should change his/her sexuality.
The United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) issued ethical guidelines against reparative therapy in 2011, and the Revd Canon, Adrian M Rhodes, President of the European Association of Psychotherapy, a UKCP member and former UKCP Vice-chair, said earlier in 2012:
'Both psychotherapy/counselling and the religious quest, are powerful explorations of what it is to be human, in all its richness and diversity. They have much to offer each other and the interplay between these fields is profoundly enriching and enlightening. However, to use either activity as a covert way of achieving the aims of the other is both unworthy and unprofessional. It is as wrong to pursue through psychotherapy, a religious agenda which predetermines homosexuality as wrong, as it would be to use psychotherapy to define religious faith as pathological state to be eradicated.'
The reason UKCP and BACP are opposed to "gay cure" therapies is not only that sexual orientation cannot be "cured": these therapies are, like homeopathy or faith healing, dependent on the belief of the patient that they will work. But a homeopathist or a faith healer is, at best, attempting to invoke the placebo effect: a patient's own strong belief that they will get better has been shown to have positive effects on some illnesses.
Whereas with reparative therapy, the therapist is attempting to confirm their client's belief that there is something wrong with them: a reparative therapist does not wish their client to become well, but to invoke a strong belief that the client can somehow deny or suppress their own normal sexual attraction to the same sex.
This is no different in attitude from the 1950s belief that giving female hormones to gay men to chemically castrate them would remove their sexual orientation, or the use of electroshock as a medical treatment for homosexuality.
What Core Issues Trust want to do is to advertise a service which is known to be extremely damaging - victims of reparative therapy are at high risk for suicide and self-harm - and which will not do what it is claimed to do. Mike Davidson's "psychodrama groups" may provide him with the company of other gay men who are also determined to believe that they can suppress their own sexual orientation, but he cannot advertise them as a cure for sexual orientation.
UKCP issued a statement on 20th January 2012 to point out that Mike Davidson is "not a member of UKCP. He has never been a student or trainee member of UKCP and has never appeared on our register."
Advertising standards for health care set a very high standard of proof for medical services. Core Issues Trust cannot possibly pass that standard. Their lawyer is taking the much safer course of claiming this as a free speech issue, not an advertisement for a dodgy health service. The bus adverts were not allowed because the London Transport Authority decided they were too offensive for that eye-catching position: but had the adverts been accepted, they would then have been subject to the regulation of the Advertising Standards Authority.
On 30th January this year, Core Issues Trust held a a briefing seminar (Beyond Critique: The Misuse of Science by UK Professional Mental Health Bodies) with Christian Concern in which they claimed that "communications" from the Lesbian and Gay Special Interest Group of the Royal College of Psychiatrists had
influenced other mental health bodies, including the two largest UK counselling and psychotherapeutic bodies (BACP and UKCP) in forbidding their members from assisting autonomous clients to reduce unwanted homosexual feelings
and claims that the consequences of this ban on reparative therapy means
vulnerable individuals are now likely to be exposed to unregulated, non-supervised and poorly monitored therapeutic initiatives aimed at reducing homosexual feelings.
It is impossible to altogether prevent quacks and deluded/misguided individuals from claiming to have a fake cure and offering it - regardless of the damage it does - to people who want to believe in the nostrum. But it is possible for professional bodies to prevent people from being fooled into thinking that a fake cure must be valid because the person offering it is a member of a reputable body.
[In court, Core Issues Trust's barrister Paul Diamond claimed "reparative therapy" was the equivalent of transitioning:
“With any other protected characteristic, the law protects the right to change that characteristic just as well as the right to keep it, e.g. the right to change one’s religion, political opinion, and even sex – that is the whole basis of protecting the rights of transgender people. It would be absurd to deny the same freedom in relation to sexual orientation.”
The distinction is that for trans people, transitioning to their real gender from the gender assigned at birth, is shown to increase a trans person's health, happiness, and quality of life. Whereas it has consistently been shown that advocating "reparative therapy" to someone who is unhappy with their sexual orientation (or whose parents are unhappy with their perceived sexual orientation) is not going to change their sexual orientation and is going to ensure they are less healthy and less happy.]
The ASA has an obligation to act where adverts are deemed to be "misleading, harmful, or offensive". A claim that being gay is an illness is misleading: a claim that beng gay can be cured is harmful: and a claim that gay people become happy by being cured is misleading, harmful, and offensive.
The High Court ruled Transport for London's process in introducing the ban "was procedurally unfair".
But it ruled TfL was right to ban the Core Issues Trust's advert because it would "cause grave offence" to those who were gay.